These Are The Most Memorable and Controversial Campaign Ads Arriving in Oregon Mailboxes

Our 2018 Mailer Awards

With less than a week to go before Election Day on Nov. 6, Portland voters are finding their mailboxes stuffed with campaign literature.

The ads are designed to prod people into casting their ballots with glossy photos, a little pathos and a dose of fear.

WW collected as many mailers as we could—and grabbed a few screen captures from videos. Then we looked for themes. Here's what stands out.

Scariest Boogeyman:

The City of Portland

Portland may be best known in the popular imagination as a twee playscape with a cold brew pour-over on every block.

But this campaign season, Portland is serving as boogeyman, particularly for conservative candidates. Several fliers and ads focus on downtown homeless camps as a symbol of a failed city. (In at least one case, no tents are needed to use Portland as pejorative. In Coos Bay, 223 miles from Portland, the Oregon Republican Party is sending out fliers accusing Democratic Rep. Caddy McKeown of being just another "Portland politician"—"time and again Caddy McKeown has failed to stand up for our values and supported the Portland liberal agenda.")

The Oregon Republican Party, in support of its gubernatorial nominee, Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), blanketed Portland in fliers that show a photo of a camp that includes two grocery carts and a bike wheel next to a dumpster.
The pitch: "The Kate Brown Record?: Lawlessness on Our Streets & a Failed Educational System."

The issue: There's a problem with that image, says an employee at the Pearl District building featured. The camp was cleared three years ago.

"It's typical campaign cherry-picking," says Jared Hopkins, an unaffiliated voter who says he's voting for Brown, who has worked in the building on the North Park Blocks for seven years. "It's a patent lie to say lawlessness was caused by Kate Brown."

"The possibility that one homeless camp may have moved does not change the reality that homelessness is growing worse under Kate Brown," says Kevin Hoar, spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party.

Other campaigns also produced ads featuring camps:

Bob Terry for Washington County chair, running against Kathryn Harrington. Terry's pitch: "For more than a decade on Metro Council, Kathryn Harrington watched the decline of Portland, more people sleeping on the streets, more crime, more chaos, more taxes."

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith running against
former state Rep. Jo Ann Hardesty (D-Portland) for Portland City Council. Smith's pitch: "Portland is way better than this," says Smith in a Facebook video. "My opponent and I have honest differences on how to address this crisis. She opposes taking urgent action to get people off the street." That's an apparent reference to Smith's support for using Wapato Jail as a homeless shelter. Hardesty opposes that idea.

Second Scariest Boogeyman:

President Trump

No surprise: Oregon Democrats are running against President Donald Trump.
In a flier sent out by the Democratic Party of Oregon, an image of Trump and his name features prominently on an imaginary newspaper that reads "Roe v. Wade Hangs in the Balance."

The pitch: "When our right to choose is threatened…our choice for governor becomes Clear."

The issue: State Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), who is running for governor, says he's pro-choice. Abortion-rights activists disagree, pointing to his no vote last year on a bill that enshrined Roe v. Wade at the state level. Buehler wants to convince swing voters that he's a moderate. Democrats, who hold a sizable voter registration advantage over Republicans, want to make sure he can't do that.

Most Audacious Ad

Oregon Leadership PAC

The pitch: A flier from Oregon House Republicans served Mark Meek an "eviction notice" for authoring "an amendment that would weaken protections for tenants."

The issue: In the most audacious flier of the season, the Republicans, who uniformly voted against tenant protections in 2017, are targeting a Democrat for failing to sufficiently support those same protections—even though he voted for them.

This ad, paid for by the Oregon Leadership PAC in support of Republican candidate Josh Hill, is an outstanding accomplishment in chutzpah.

"In the alternate universe where this mail piece must have been created, Republicans are champions for tenant protections," says Aaron Fiedler, communications director for FuturePAC, the Oregon House Democrats' committee. "This has got to be among the most disingenuous hit pieces of the cycle."

Meek did work with developers and landlords on the bill, which limited how much landlords would be required to pay tenants in the event they were allowed to evict them without cause. "It's notable that House Democrats do not seem to be disputing the specifics of what was said in the mailer," says PAC spokesman Preston Mann.

But Meek voted for the legislation. (No Republican did.) His vote enraged real estate interests. And the Realtors' PAC has given Hill donations worth $93,000, 44 percent of the total he's raised.

Most Unnecessary Gamble


The pitch: A photo of two children hugging, the words "Affordable Housing," and a reminder that ballots are due Nov. 6.

The issue: This campaign flier is most notable for who it's from, not for what it says. Metro, the regional planning government, which referred a $653 million affordable housing bond to the ballot for this election, has spent $85,000 sending out fliers.

The expenditure comes even as the yes campaign has raised nearly $900,000 in contributions, and the opposition has less than $50,000.

Public entities are prohibited from campaigning, and whether Metro crossed that line is a matter of dispute. The Oregonian first reported the existence of an elections complaint filed by the no campaign Oct. 23.

The Oregon secretary of state's Elections Division has said it will investigate. An investigation probably won't be finished until after the election, says Debra Royal, chief of staff to the secretary of state.

Metro did not seek advance review of the materials by the secretary of state's office, as is often done. It's not clear why Metro officials opened themselves up to a complaint by producing literature without a review.

"We felt it was consistent with past mailers for which we've received favorable guidance from the secretary of state," says Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh.

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